When you try to persuade people to accept your position on a divisive issue, including opposing opinions in your argument can make your message more persuasive.
You might be reluctant to make your audience aware of other viewpoints for fear you could lose their support, but social psychology research shows that the opposite is more likely to be true.
Whether you are presenting your argument in a written message or in a speech, if there is an opposing view, you could address it in two ways. You could make the audience aware that they might hear another argument intended to persuade them, and then leave it at that. But a more effective approach would be to mention the opposing view, explain what it is, and then present a counterargument.
A theory of behavioral psychology, called innoculation, comes into play, and it works the same way as it does in medicine. When you are innoculated against a disease, you are less likely to contract the illness. Similarly, research shows that if you present an opposing view and then give a compelling explanation of why the other side’s position is inferior, it forewarns what people might hear later. According to research, the audience is more likely to form an opinion consistent with yours and will be more resistant to opposing points of view when they are exposed to them later.
Psychologist Robert Gass says that by forewarning people, you give them time to think about their position, and they are more likely to develop their own counterarguments against opposing viewpoints.
With a one-sided argument, you can devote more time to your own position, but readers or listeners are left thinking that you conveniently omitted the opposing perspective. Consequently, you are viewed as less credible.
How to Write Argumentative Essays
Argumentative essay writing requires that one is able to convince reasonable readers that their argument or position has merit. The art of argumentation is not an easy skill to acquire. It is one thing to have an opinion and another to be able to argue it successfully.
What Is an Argumentative Essay?
An argumentative essay is a genre of writing that aims at investigating an issue, taking a stand on an issue, generating and evaluating a multitude of evidence in a logical manner to support the overall claim. An argument essay is therefore meant to persuade people to think the same way you do i.e. convincing the reader to agree with the writer’s point of view.
While making an argument in academic writing, we aim at expressing a point of view on a subject and supporting it with logical evidence. We all use arguments at some time in our daily routines, and you probably have some know-how at crafting an argument. The verbal arguments we occasionally engage in can become unreasonable and heated losing the focus. The goal of an argumentative essay, however, is quite the opposite as the argument has to be specific, reasoned, detailed and supported with evidence.
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Difference between an Argumentative and Persuasive Essay
Well, some confusion may occur between the difference of argumentative essay and persuasive essay. Though both essays aim to present a particular point of view, they are both different in how they get their points across and why. A persuasive essay is mostly one-sided and uses passion and emotion to attempt to sway the reader’s loyalty. Argumentative essays, on the other hand, are more structured and try to look at critical issues from multiple angles.
Structure of an Argumentative Assay
The only way to writing a captivating argumentative essay is to understand the structure so as to stay focused and make a strong point.
1. The Introduction
The introductory paragraph sets the stage for the position you are arguing for in your essay. It’s made up of a hook, background information, and a thesis statement.
A hook is a sentence that is meant to capture the reader’s attention. As a writer, you need a strong hook that should knock your reader’s socks off and set an expectation of what they are reading. For example if I am writing an argumentative essay about why American people should start eating insects as part of their diet, my hook could be, “For those interested in improving their diets as part of their resolution this year, you may want to reduce your chicken, fish and beef intake and say hello to eating insects.”
The next part of your introduction is dedicated to offering some detailed background information about your topic. It gives the reader the necessary information he/she needs to understand your position. This is required to understand the argument by answering questions such as, what is the issue at hand, where is the issue prevalent and why is it important?
When making a thesis statement for your argumentative essay, you clearly state your position on the topic and a reason for taking that stance. For example, “A diet of insects can provide solutions to issues of starvation, obesity and climate change thus Americans should embrace and learn to rely on insects over beef, chicken and fish as their primary source of nutrition.” The reader needs to know what exactly the argument is and why it is important.
2. Developing an argument
You now have to back up your argument with credible evidence. This is the heart of your essay and needs to be started off with a general statement that is backed with specific details or examples. Depending on the length of your essay, you will need to include two or three well-explained paragraphs to each reason or type of evidence. The use of opinions from recognized authorities and first-hand examples and scientific knowledge on your topic of discussion will help readers to connect to the debate in a way they wouldn’t with the use of abstract ideas.
3. Refuting opponent’s arguments/claims
At this point, you state your opponent’s views then offer a counter argument. A well written argumentative essay must anticipate and address positions in the opposition. This will make your position more convincing and stronger. Additionally, pointing out what your opponent is likely to say in response to your argument shows that you have taken the time to critically analyze and prepare your topic.
4. The conclusion
This is the section of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Emphasize why the issue is so important, review the main points and review your thesis statement. Make the reader think about the ramifications of your argument by showing what would happen if people acted as per your position. Closing the argumentative essay with a clear picture of the world as you would like to see it can leave the reader convinced that your argument is valid.
What Makes Your Argumentative Essay Successful?
To write an effective argumentative essay, you should find a topic that you are interested in and one that offers two sides of an issue rather than giving an absolute answer. For instance, it is impossible to make an argumentative essay about how 4+4=8. However, you could argue for days about contentious topics like GMOs, homosexuality, gun control etc.
Further, the topic should be narrow in focus so that detailed, substantial evidence can be presented. For example, writing an argumentative essay on World War II can seem vague as the topic is too broad.
Finally, the writer should take a stance and stick with it. The reader should be able to determine easily what position you are advocating for in the essay.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Argumentative Essay Writing
- Use passionate and convincing language.
- Illustrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic under discussion.
- Back up your statements with facts, statistic, examples and informed opinions of experts who agree with you.
- Address the opposing side’s argument and refute their claims.
- Demonstrate a lack of bias.
- Take a stand and don’t confuse your readers.
- Refrain from using weak qualifiers like ‘I think, I believe, I guess’, as this will only reduce the level of trust the reader has in your opinion.
- Don’t assume that the audience will agree with you about any aspect of your argument.
- Don’t use strict moral or religious claims as support for your argument.
- Don’t claim to be an expert if you are not one.
- No strong personal expressions must be used as it weakens the grounds of your essay, like saying, ‘Mr. Chris is ignorant.’
- Do not introduce new points while making your conclusion.
There are lots of argumentative essay topics to write about if you think about it. Choose a topic that matters to you and make a strong case on the topic using the above guidelines.